Affirmative Action Bans and Black Admission Outcomes: Selection-Corrected Estimates from UC Law Schools

Danny Yagan

NBER Working Paper No. 20361
Issued in July 2014
NBER Program(s):   ED   LS   PE

The consequences of banning affirmative action depend on schools' ability and willingness to avoid it. This paper uses rich application-level data to estimate the effect of the 1996 University of California affirmative action ban---the first and largest ban---on black admission advantages at UC law schools. Controlling for selective attrition from applicant pools, I find that the ban reduced the black admission rate from 61% to 31%. This implies that affirmative action ban avoidance is far from complete and suggests that affirmative action at law schools passes the constitutional test of not being easily replaced by non-racial alternatives. I further find that the affirmative action ban far from eliminated cross-sectional black admission advantages, which remained as high as 63 percentage points for applicants at the margin of being accepted or rejected. This suggests that UC schools were technologically able to sustain substantially higher black admission rates after the ban but were either unwilling or legally unable to do so.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20361

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